Starting Friday, anyone five years old or older who enters a Portland restaurant will need to do so while wearing a mask. Multnomah County has opted to instate a face covering requirement for all public indoor spaces, including businesses, starting August 13.
More than a month after the state lifted its COVID-19 safety framework, the virus has spread dramatically throughout the state, including Multnomah County: The county reported 94 new and presumed COVID-19 cases on August 6, the most of any other Oregon county. As the local surge continues and the highly contagious delta variant rises in numbers, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury decided to institute an executive order later this week, requiring masks for all vaccinated and unvaccinated residents in all indoor public spaces.
“Millions of Americans have been safely vaccinated, and are protected against becoming seriously ill or dying even from the delta variant,’’ Kafoury said in a statement. “But children under 12, immune-suppressed people and others enjoy no such freedom from fear. We have two important tools against this virus: vaccines and masks. And we’re going to use the masks until more people are vaccinated.’’
People actively eating and drinking in restaurants and bars can take off their masks, of course, but all indoor food establishments will need to require masks for customers who have left their table. The county is currently fine-tuning how it will accept tips of violations of the mask mandate, but those who do violate the mask mandate could be fined as much as $1,000. The county expects to keep the mask mandate in place through January, depending on the spread, length, and severity of the recent COVID-19 spike. The goal is to enforce the mask mandate as a preventative measure: Ideally, the universal use of masks will mitigate the spread of the new variant, which would keep the death and hospitalization rate down while also allowing businesses to continue to operate. This story will be updated with more information.